Freshmen welcome ceremonies
The first-year student welcome ceremony, the first-bell ringing or a so-called “freshmen baptism.” All these terms refer to the same event that takes place at almost every university in the Czech Republic. You shouldn’t miss it.
In many Czech cities, this event became a tradition accompanied with a spectacular celebration during which university freshmen are ceremonially accepted into the academia. Every university does it a little bit differently but it’s generally always fun. The aim is to demonstrate that students can enjoy their university life even though studying is often hard work.
Event organisers want students to experience their new city and discover its best clubs, bars and restaurants. Freshmen meet their new classmates as well as senior students. There’re also competitions, various games and interesting prizes. It’s all organised by student unions or local student councils.
For example, Tomas Bata University in Zlín organises a unique game called Stopovačka (“Tracking” in English). Students form groups of three and complete various tasks using hints. It involves lots of movement while discovering the city.
In Ostrava, they have a similar game but a little bit more challenging. There’s quite a lot of alcohol involved so sometimes the participants are happy that they at least reach the goal. The organisers provide a tour through the best bars in the city centre including the famous Stodolní street which is full of clubs.
Brno University of Technology hosts a traditional event called “Mařena” which is organised by the senior students of architecture. It’s one week long and includes a rich cultural programme as well as interesting lectures about architecture. The event ends with the “freshmen baptism.” Students dress according the particular theme that changes every year and hold a parade in the city centre, touring significant architectural monuments.
Prague universities usually welcome their freshmen “indoors,” inviting them into well-known student clubs such as Student ART, P. M. Club and Mecca Club. These events include dancing and various competitions for free drinks and prizes. Universities often invite celebrities and hold a symbolic “freshmen baptism” at midnight. Some schools organise this event every term, not only in September.
Welcoming freshmen abroad
University of Toronto has a tradition that freshmen dye themselves in the violet colour from head to toes for their welcoming ceremony. At Queen’s University, also in Canada, this ritual is considered top secret. Except for the participating students, nobody else knows what the ritual entails.
In New Zealand, welcoming of new students lasts for ten days with many concerts and wild parties. The event also includes so-called Lowland Games—numerous competitive tasks that freshmen have to complete.
In Denmark, new students have their welcoming ceremony a week before the academic terms officially starts so they can use all university premises. There’re rather strict safety rules, though. Alcohol can be drunk only after 4 P.M. and students are divided into groups of four while two leaders of each group must always stay sober and be able to provide first-aid if necessary.
Compared to Denmark, welcome events in Portugal might seem a little bit too extreme. According to the local tradition, freshmen step into the river and splash themselves with cold water using potties. There’re also bull fights and city parades.
“In Coimbra, there aren’t many people who actually live there. Still, the locals always take out their fishing chairs and watch the parade, seated comfortably. There’re also free alcoholic beverages and food,” said Veronika, a Czech student, for the website Aktuálně.cz.
In the past, welcoming new students in Indonesia or Sweden was quite infamous. Some local authorities even banned the practice as senior students play nasty pranks on the poor freshmen that include bullying and completing humiliating tasks with physical and psychological punishments.
Sadly, even though welcome parties in the countries in question got better lately, in Thailand these mean practices still live on. The media report on the indecent behaviour of older students every year and the public asks the universities to exert control over the event.
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